Green, Greener, Greenest
“It takes a village to create a recipe,” says Christine Burns Rudalevige, contributing writer and recipe developer for edible New Hampshire. Like many who belong to the edible community, Rudalevige holds an array of other titles and roles that contribute to our local food movement. Most recently, along with recipe tester, food writer, newspaper columnist, and teacher, the eclectic food connoisseur is adding cookbook author to her pot.
Green Plate Special: Sustainable and Delicious Recipes, published by Islandport Press this May, contains a collection of recipes and short essays based off of Rudalevige’s weekly column in the Portland Press Herald. With recipes for dishes like Spicy Crab and Arugula Omelet, Cold-Brew Affogato With Cinnamon-Scented Ice Cream, and Kimchi Ramen, Green Plate Special whips up a menu to satisfy any palate, and Rudalevige’s essays explain how the average cook can incorporate sustainable eating practices into a busy lifestyle without breaking the bank or becoming discouraged when that craving for a bag of Doritos gets the best of us. “I’m not going to tell anyone not to eat Doritos, I love Doritos,” says the new author, who emphasizes that it’s all about the balance. “I’m not going to beat myself up about eating a bag every once in awhile, because I make kale chips too.”
In her first essay she breaks the ice with a question many readers are likely wondering, “Why should you turn to me for advice on greening up your eating habits?” Her answer: “Because I know your limitations. Intimately, actually, because I have the same ones.”
One of Rudalevige’s goals in her book is to translate data about farming practices, food policy, transportation costs, and food management into digestible and familiar paths to breaking bad cooking and purchasing habits (such as overbuying or throwing away leftovers), rediscovering ingredients, and uncovering the vast array of goodness that exists in a phenomenon called greener eating. “Every recipe [in this book] makes at least one green eating point come alive on the plate,” she writes.
As winner of Readable Feast’s Sustainable Cookbook of the Year Award in the Socially Conscious category and Honorable Mention for Cookbook of the Year, Green Plate Special is inspiring readers to demand seconds and thirds of the sustainable eating guide and cookbook. For Rudalevige, however, even reaching just one person is enough. “The best part of publishing a cookbook was probably convincing one of my mother’s long-time friends to actually buy the farm eggs, because now he kind of understands.”
The local-food advocate shares why it’s better to “pay six bucks for a dozen eggs” in one of her essays, explaining that, though local eggs from pastured chickens can be more expensive, your money is going into the local food system—and you’re getting better eggs. Unlike commercials eggs that you buy at the grocery store, pastured eggs come from hens whose diets consist mainly of a variety of grasses and bugs. This natural feed and the hens themselves are also more likely to be cared for with pesticide-free, non-genetically modified practices, and a lack of the antibiotics that frequently exist in your store-bought eggs. The prices of farm-fresh items are higher for a reason, she says. “That’s what it takes for farmers to produce this stuff because it’s not part of the whole industrial cycle.” But Rudalevige reminds us, “If you do have to buy products that are part of the industrial cycle, that doesn’t make you a bad person, it just makes you someone living within your means.”
In other words, loosen up a little! “You don’t have to do it all. You can do the bits that fit into your lifestyle and it’s better than doing nothing,” says Rudalevige. In her own life, cooking and eating sustainably have served as a means of “continuing education, with new techniques and new products coming out all the time.” Most recently, she says that weighing ingredients versus measuring them is catching on, one of many topics that she’s written about in her weekly “Green Plate Special” Portland Press Herald column. By using grams instead of cups, you actually increase your accuracy and in turn, the quality of your outcome. Plus, you’re more likely to avoid wasting ingredients this way, she says. The argument? Weight is exact; measurement can be inconsistent. With a recipe gone wrong, “In many cases, the recipe is not the culprit. The measuring is,” writes Rudalevige in her article.
For newcomers to the sustainable and greener eating scene, Rudalevige has some important advice: “Don’t overbuy.” We’ve all been struck by the bug—you’re at the farmers’ market and everything looks beautiful and bright and fresh (because it is) and you’re feeling righteous because you’re about to buy real, live, produce. When this happens, take a deep breath, appreciate the bounty before you, and “be realistic about what you can cook until the next market.”